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THE CATHOLIC SANCTUARY
AND THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

by Michael Davies





RETURN TO THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE


How sad it is that the objectives of what Pope Pius XII condemned as "wicked movement" are now being imposed upon us as the norm for Catholic worship. See that your flocks are not deceived, he warned, "by a mania for restoring primitive usages in the liturgy".

It was under the guise of a return to the primitive that the Protestant Reformers were able to destroy the Mass. Today in the service of false ecumenism the Catholic ethos of our churches is being replaced by a Protestant ethos precisely under the guise of a return to earlier practices. No good fruits have come from this ecumenical surrender. In no country in the world have the changes been followed by an increase in fervour and piety among the faithful, only by a massive falling away from the faith.

Monsignor Klaus Gamber certainly agrees with Cardinal Ratzinger (page 27) that the change to Mass facing the people was a mistake. He has even stated that a return to traditional belief in the Eucharist will only come about with a return to the traditional altar:

The opinions of Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Gamber were endorsed in July 1996 by a theologian who traditional Catholics would have imagined to be the last man to take such a stand. Max Thurian, a brother of the French Protestant Taizé community was one of the Protestant observers who advised the Consilium (committee) which composed the New Mass. In 1969 he expressed his satisfaction with the Novus Ordo Missae by stating that Protestants could now celebrate the Lord's Supper with the same prayers as Catholics. The French daily Le Monde announced on 12 May 1988 that Max Thurian had not only become a Catholic but had been ordained to the Catholic priesthood by the former Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Ursi. Father Thurian was invited to join the International Theological Commission and, as a member of this commission and a celebrated convert, he caused a considerable stir with an article which he contributed to the 24 July 1996 L'Osservatore Romano (English edition). The opinions that Father Thurian expressed in this article attained even more significance in view of the fact that he died a few weeks later on 15th August one day before his 75th birthday. The article, "The Liturgy and Contemplation", thus represents his final thoughts on the Catholic liturgy. His comments included the following:

The great problem of contemporary liturgical life (apathy towards worship, boredom, lack of vitality and participation) stems from the fact that the celebration has sometimes lost its character as mystery, which fosters the spirit of adoration. We often encounter an inflation of words, explanations and comments, homilies too long and poorly prepared, which leaves little room for the mystery being celebrated...

Serious mistakes have sometimes been made in certain places: the location of the altar, tabernacle, and celebrants' chairs, overpowering illumination, excessive removal of ornamentation, etc...The fact that the celebrants and faithful constantly face each other closes the liturgy in on itself. On the other hand a sound celebration which takes into account the pre-eminence of the altar, the discretion of the celebrants' ministry, the orientation of everyone towards the Lord and the adoration of His presence signified in the symbols and realized by the sacrament, confers on the liturgy that contemplative atmosphere without which it risks being a tiresome religious disquisition, a useless community distraction, a sort of rigmarole...

Wherever tradition has left stupendous altars placed against the apse, this arrangement could be respected by dividing the celebration into a face-to-face between the celebrants and the community for the Liturgy of the Word and a common orientation towards the altar from the time of the offertory to the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer. This solution is preferable to setting up a second, portable altar in the shape of a chest or small table...The urgent need for the Church's liturgy today is to arrange everything so as to foster in the greatest possible way the contemplative adoration of the Lord , who reveals himself to His people in Word and Sacrament, and whose humble unobtrusive servants are the celebrants.

St. Richard Gwyn, a Welsh teacher who was executed for recusancy (a refusal to attend Protestant services), looked upon the desecrated sanctuaries of Wales and remarked with sadness: "Yn lle allor, trestyl trist" ,"In place of an altar there is a miserable table." God grant that the miserable tables that have replaced the altars of sacrifice throughout the Catholic world will one day be removed and replaced by altars of sacrifice. God grant too that the traditional Mass will be restored together with the traditional altars, so that our priests can begin Holy Mass with the timeless words Introibo ad altare Dei, and that a manifestly sacrificial Mass will be offered once more upon a manifestly sacrificial altar.

© 1997 Michael Davies.



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Last modified 27th October, 1997, by David Joyce.